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Falcons have reasons to worry

Causes for concern crop up in Philly loss

POSTED: November 1, 2008 5:00 a.m.
Mel Evans/The Associated Press

Atlanta Falcons coach Mike Smith walks on the sidelines during the fourth quarter of Sunday's loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in Philadelphia.The Eagles won 27-14.

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FLOWERY BRANCH — The Atlanta Falcons put their 24-hour rule into effect Monday, which meant no more fretting about that loss in Philadelphia.

Besides, they’ve got other things to worry about.

Like the running game. And Jamaal Anderson’s concussion. And possible disciplinary action for a couple of key players.

Fox Sports reported that defensive tackle Grady Jackson was among the six to eight players around the league being investigated for taking a weight-loss diuretic that violates the NFL’s drug policy. He faces the possibility of a four-game suspension, which would deprive the interior line of one of its most effective players.

The medication rids the body of unneeded water, making it appealing to players with weight issues. That would certainly apply to Jackson, who’s listed at 345 pounds and is probably much heavier. But the pills are banned by the NFL because they can be used to mask a positive steroid test.

Jackson did not show at his locker during the 45-minute media availability on Monday. The Falcons declined to discuss the issue.

"It’s inappropriate for me to comment on that, to comment about the NFL drug policy," coach Mike Smith told reporters. "I hope you understand."

The Falcons also might hear from the league on a jarring shot delivered by safety Lawyer Milloy in the 27-14 loss to the Eagles on Sunday. He was penalized for unnecessary roughness on Philadelphia tight end L.J. Smith and certainly faces a fine — perhaps even a suspension — as the league cracks down on players for questionable hits.

"Any play is reviewable," Smith said. "We’ll have to wait and see as the week progresses how they view it."

Milloy insisted that he wasn’t trying to hurt Smith.

"I was going full blast. It’s really up to (the official’s) discretion and I just have to live by the rules," the safety said. "Right now everything is under a scope, from hits like that to our socks. I’m just part of it. I’m trying to do the best to live by the rules, but my job is to get the players down when I play, and sometimes the play is bang-bang."

Smith confirmed that Anderson, the Falcons’ top draft pick in 2007, left the game with a concussion. His status for Sunday’s game at Oakland is unknown.

"There’s a protocol within the league as to how you make the decision for getting those guys back," Smith said. "We certainly hope Jamaal will be back very quickly."

After a disappointing rookie year, Anderson has made more of a contribution this season. He had a sack against the Eagles before getting hurt.

Atlanta also must rev up a running game that averaged nearly 181 yards over its first five games — including a team-record 318 in the opener against Detroit — but totaled just 152 yards in its last two contests. Against Philadelphia, the Falcons ran 24 times for 77 yards, which paled in comparison to the Eagles’ 192-yard effort.

The lack of an effective running game makes things especially tough on the quarterback, particularly when he’s a rookie such as Matt Ryan. While the youngster has shown far more maturity than his age might indicate, there’s no question his development will be stunted without some help from the other guys in the backfield.

"They did a nice job against the run," Smith said. "But there were plays out there. There always are. A cut here, a missed hole there. There were some plays where we didn’t have the vision we need to have, or maybe we didn’t get a downfield block from a wide receiver. There are always a number of things that constitute why a play is not effective or successful."

Michael Turner had 58 yards on 17 carries, but 22 of those came on one play. His backup, Jerious Norwood, couldn’t find any running room, picking up a mere 5 yards the four times he got the ball.

"It’s not a concern," Turner insisted. "The running game is something we believe in. We’ve just got to execute better."

The NFC West leaves little time for sulking. The Falcons (4-3) are third in the highly competitive division, where all four teams are at least .500. Carolina leads with a 6-2 record, a game ahead of Tampa Bay and another half-game up on the Falcons. New Orleans (4-4) brings up the rear, but everyone is a contender.

"We’ve still got a bunch of games left," Ryan said. "We’re still in good shape."



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